Toby and Gabe have both had reflux. Toby’s was silent, meaning he wasn’t sick, and was diagnosed at six weeks. With Gabe I recognised the signs much sooner (with him the vast amounts of vomit were also a clue!) and he was on medication by two weeks old. But how do you know when your baby has grown out of reflux?
Well, if your little one is on medication for reflux then the only way to see if they have grown out of it, as opposed to the symptoms just being well controlled by the medication, is to stop giving it to them and see what happens.
In fact dealing with reflux in babies and toddlers is all just trial and error, because they can’t tell you what’s wrong, what hurts, what helps – and as the parent of children who have suffered with reflux it is incredibly frustrating and it can make you feel as guilty as hell.
We were incredibly lucky that despite both Toby and Gabe having reflux neither of them have had any allergies. Diagnosing and managing Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) is another case of trial and error and I’ve seen quite a few of my friends struggle with going dairy free themselves if they are breastfeeding or trialling different prescription formulas until they find the right one.
In the absence of any allergies the first step in trying to control infant reflux is almost always Infant Gaviscon. For some babies Gaviscon is enough, but I know many more who have needed something more, or for who Gaviscon has caused more trouble than it’s worth. Toby and Gabe both had Gaviscon with some success but it wasn’t enough to completely control the reflux symptoms for either of them.
The next medicine we tried with both boys was ranitidine. For Toby that was enough and with Gaviscon and ranitidine his symptoms were well controlled. So well in fact that by the time he was 9 months old we thought his reflux was gone and we took him off all his medication.
It seemed for a while that all his reflux symptoms were gone. He would still wake up quite a lot in the night but we always blamed that on having a cold, or teething, or some other reason. It was only when he was about 18 months old and still waking up three or four times a night and needing milk to settle him every time that it occurred to us he could still be suffering from reflux.
So we got him back on ranitidine, which helped a lot. We started reducing his dose again when he was two but he was two and a half before he stopped taking any reflux medication at all. Towards the end he was only having 1ml at bedtime, which is a really low dose, but when we removed it all together he would go back to waking up a lot again. He is a few months off being four now and fingers crossed has completely grown out of his reflux.
Gabe’s reflux has been even worse than his brother’s. He was on Gaviscon and ranitidine from two weeks old but he would still spend the majority of every day screaming. At six months I went back to our GP and got a referral to a paediatrician but it was another four months before we actually saw someone. The consultant prescribed omeprazole in addition to the ranitidine and Gaviscon and at last Gabe’s symptoms were under control.
Before Christmas we weaned him off the Gaviscon and he seemed to cope OK with that. After our experience with Toby though I was wary of being too confident that his reflux had improved. After Christmas we reduced his ranitidine and eventually cut out the morning dose all together. Still no symptoms.
Gabe was now having omeprazole in the morning and ranitidine at bedtime. His sleep was still pretty rubbish but there was no screaming or back-arching and he didn’t always need milk to settle him back to sleep at night.
So we started reducing the omeprazole too. We were down to half his original dose and it still seemed to be going well. So about a month ago we decided to stop the omeprazole completely and see what happened. Because if you want to know if your baby has grown out of reflux the only thing to do is reduce or remove the medication and see what happens.
For a few nights it seemed to be OK. Gabe was still waking up in the night but no more than usual and was still fine during the day. But four or five days in and the screaming and back-arching was back with a vengeance. We stuck it out for a few more days (when stopping this kind of reflux medication there’s a possibility of something called acid rebound which means it can get worse before it gets better) but it was awful and I couldn’t put Gabe through it any longer. And I couldn’t cope with any more terrible nights.
So now, at 21 months old, Gabe is back on omeprazole, along with ranitidine and we’ll stick with that for now. We’re seeing the paediatrician again next month so we’ll see what she says but I don’t think it’s worth trying to reduce his medication again at least until his last molars come through and we know that teething isn’t going to be a problem any more.
If your baby has reflux then you will probably be told that they might grow out of if when they can sit up, or when they’re eating solid food, or when they’re standing, or walking. And that might be true for some babies. But it wasn’t for mine.
Reflux isn’t the worst thing that could happen to your baby, it isn’t life threatening, but it is awful to live with both for your baby and for you. It can be all-consuming – seeing your baby distressed and in pain and not being able to do anything about it is just horrible. I hate that it has stolen so much joy from the baby years for us. Although it’s by no means the only reason it has definitely contributed to our decision not to have any more children.
But it does get better. If you are reading this and you have recently found out your baby has reflux then please know that in the vast majority of cases it can be controlled with diet and/or medication, and eventually nearly all babies will grow out of it.
Has my baby grown out of reflux though?
No, not yet.
You can find more information on infant reflux and get advice from Living With Reflux